From the Department Chair’s Desk: 2017 in Review

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

A lot has been happening in Dairy Science over the past several months!

As many of you know, Kalyanna (Yanna) Williams stepped into our Dairy Youth Specialist role this summer.  Starting the position just before June Dairy Month was pretty exciting for Yanna, especially when a record-breaking 140 kids arrived for Badger Dairy Camp in her second week on the job.  Yanna is almost a veteran now, having been through all of the key youth events once, except 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl.

A month or so later, in early July, Dr. Sebastian Arriola Apelo joined our dairy nutrition group as Assistant Professor of Metabolism.  Sebastian is originally from Uruguay, and he did his graduate work with Dr. Mark Hannigan at Virginia Tech.  His main area of interest is protein nutrition, particularly ways to enhance the cow’s ability to use specific amino acids and other nutrients to put more high quality milk into the bulk tank and excrete less nitrogen into the environment.  We are delighted to have Sebastian on board, although we recognize that he’ll have to work pretty hard to match the colorful personality of his predecessor – the famous Dr. Armentano!  Any geneticists reading this note will be happy to learn that Sebastian’s wife, Dr. Gabi Márquez Betz, is a genetics researcher at ABS Global.

Our newest faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Van Os, will arrive in March to begin her role as Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Animal Welfare.  Jennifer is a native of Champaign-Urbana, and her winding path to the Dairy Science Department included some study time at Harvard and some work experience in L.A., before she earned a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior at UC Davis and gained post-doctoral experience at the University of British Columbia.  As mentioned earlier, Jennifer and her husband, Neil, will be moving to Madison later this winter.

Drs. Arriola Apelo and Van Os will be joining a growing team of young “hot shots” in dairy research, as evidenced by the fact that Drs. Laura Hernandez and Heather White swept the outstanding early career scientist awards at this summer’s American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting, winning the Foundation Scholar and Cargill Animal Nutrition Awards, respectively.

On a less happy note, Dr. Pamela Ruegg will be departing in early January to become Chair of Animal Sciences at her alma mater, Michigan State University.  Pam’s research and extension work has had a tremendous impact on milk quality and dairy cow health and welfare, not only in Wisconsin, but around the world.  Please wish Pam the best of luck with her new adventure!

As for our undergraduate program, Ted Halbach has delivered another stellar recruiting class, with 25 new freshmen and transfer students entering the Dairy Science major this fall.  On average, these students ranked in the 87th percentile of their respective high school graduating classes, so they are a very talented bunch.  It will be fun to watch them develop over the next four years.

Lastly, we have been working with our dairy industry stakeholders to develop a new mechanism for recruiting exceptionally talented graduate students and carrying out high-impact research for the benefit of dairy farmers in Wisconsin and beyond.  Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out the Wisconsin Dairy Farming Research Partners program, in which dairy farmers and dairy-related agribusinesses can provide an annual contribution to the UW Foundation to ensure a steady supply of talented young research scientists and technical consultants, while delivering highly impactful and innovative discoveries.  To learn more about how to become a Wisconsin Dairy Farming Research Partner, contact me ( or Paul Fricke ( for details.

Happy Holidays to you and your friends and families!